Forum .LRN Q&A: General comments or discussion thread on file-storage file?

Sometimes it's useful to enable students to comment more-or-less directly on a document that's provided to them. Back in the old days of ACS 3.x, general-comments used to provide this functionality, albeit in a somewhat ugly way. Does this functionality or its equivalent exist in today's dotLRN?

If not, it might be interesting to implement it through a connection to the forum rather than its own thread. What I'm imagining is the following:

  • At the bottom of an HTML page in file-storage, students see a "comment" button. (Faculty might have the ability to turn this button on or off for individual documents or do a batch toggle for an entire folder of documents.)
  • Clicking the button takes them to a screen for starting a new thread in the appropriate discussion board.
  • Once the thread has been created, a hyperlink is added to the bottom of the page, using the subject line of the thread as the hypertest. If multiple new threads are spawned, then multiple liks are displayed.
  • At the top of the thread spawned in this manner, a back-link to the document is automatically generated.
I have developed a different vision for a client of mine on a Comment and Note Taking functionality. This is the excerpt (building upon rating):

Comments and sticky notes
The system as it has been described so far allows the user to give a rating to another user and the link a user build up with other users. This information, though statistically valuable, has the drawback that no additional explanation is available for the reasoning behind this rating. Therefore public comments on ratings need to be possible as well.

Public comments on ratings and users have the drawback that they do not allow the user to attach a simple note to a contact. A simple note could e.g. be a reminder where and how you met this person, or additional information that you know about this person, which he neglected to put live on the website. As this information should not be made available to the public, we differentiate the public comment system from this sticky note taking system.

At times you might want to share your note with your colleagues. The managers should be able to view comments on people like „has two kids and wants them to join Hardvard“ from their predecessors. With the high turnover within the organisation, this note taking method allows for easy free form knowledge storage and retrieval over the years and across managers. Therefore it must be easy to give other parties (users, groups, roles) access to your personal notes.

A further enhancement of the note taking as well as commenting system is the ability not only to comment and rate on an object per se (e.g. a user), but also on parts of the information he has given. This idea of comments on part of the displayed content has been played with and experimented very successfully in the area of E-Learning. Blackboard e.g. allows users to mark certain passages within a document that is displayed in the browser and leave a comment or personal note. Flickr ( on the other hand allows you to mark areas on a picture for comments ( ). This allows e.g. medical images to be presented to students while allowing them to mark notes on them (e.g. "In this area you can see the cancer starting").

Obviously public comments should allow a threaded discussion.

SUNY has a partial implementation of something like what you're describing in our LMS, but we use it for a different purpose. Basically, an instructor can assign a comment and a grade to any student submission, including a discussion post. (The pedagogy we promote heavily emphasizes interactivity, so providing students with good feedback on how well they participate is key.) The instructor can either keep the comment and grade or share them with the individual student, and the grade rolls up automatically into our gradebook (or will do so when the gradebook is finished). We don't have the Flickr-like (or Annotea-like) annotation functionality that you described; however, our faculty are very hot on Flickr right now, so I suspect they'd be enthusiastic about the sticky note idea as well.

At any rate, this serves a different purpose than the functionality I suggested in my original post. The latter is more to organize class activities for the students. Our system has something we call a "course map." Think of it as being somewhat like the LORS interface, except that documents in the navigation tree can automagically be set up to link to a discussion thread, a test, etc. What this does is organize class activities--reading, discussions, tests, etc.--according to the sequence of learning experiences that the instructor wants to create rather than by software functionality--e.g., forums, file storage, etc. Hanging a discussion thread directly off of a document in the content repository is a step in that general direction.

Even more interesting might be the ability to trigger and link into other module functionality (again, discussion forums, evaluations, and the like) through the metadata associated with a learning object in LORS. When you upload the content, the system would see that the third document is associated with a discussion learning activity (for example) and generate the associated thread.

Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Here's a white paper that may provide some inspiration:

The general idea is to add a few extensions to the manifest and RTE that enable a learning object to call on a collaborative learning tool (e.g., discussion thread).


Although feasible, it might not be the best idea. The reason for that is that SCORM works really well as individual self-paced training. But trying to want more out of it, it would be -using one of your analogies: trying to make veggie burgers taste like meat burgers 😉

Here's an interesting interview with Dan Rehak on the CETIS website:

Now, for full collaborative tools + content, just use LAMS (, which is also open source. More about LAMS later.


Wow. Somebody has actually read and remembered one of my articles.

Anyway, LAMS is a good example of roughly what I had in mind, although I think it may be a bit too heavyweight in its approach. Whether the infrastructure is based on SCORM or something else, the fundamental idea of mapping out a sequence of learning activities is something that should be part of a next-gen LMS.